The bad news for those who wished to see a complete NFL season in 2020 is a handful of games have been wiped off the schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is none of the 2020 NFL games that have been canceled would have counted, anyway.
So far, NFL preseason games are the only contests that have fallen victim to the threat of the virus. While it is not operating in a bubble like the NBA and the NHL are, the NFL still plans to proceed with its full, 256-game regular season as originally scheduled.
The NFL agreed to cancel preseason games in 2020 at the request of the NFL Players Association so the two sides could implement an extended training camp schedule. Because all offseason team activities played out virtually in the spring and early summer, players needed additional on-field work to get into football shape ahead of full-contact practices.
The league initially tried to preserve at least a couple preseason games in part because of the revenue they generate, but it ultimately agreed with the NFLPA and refocused on the more important task at hand — starting the 2020 regular season on time and playing a full schedule of NFL football, playoffs and Super Bowl included.
Below are the latest updates on the status of the NFL season and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the 2020 schedule.
Is the NFL season canceled for 2020?
No. The NFL regular-season schedule has not been impacted by the threat of the coronavirus. Only 2020 NFL preseason games, including the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, have been canceled.
The NFL is planning to start the season in September as scheduled. But when it created the 2020 regular-season schedule in the spring, the league built in a handful of contingencies in the event it would need to postpone early-season games.
For example, the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Tampa Bay could be pushed back by weeks or even months. Weeks 1-4 of the season could be rescheduled for the end of the season. The Pro Bowl could be canceled.
The NFL has plenty of schedule flexibility, but so far, none of it has been necessary.
When does the NFL season start in 2020?
- Date: Thursday, Sept. 10
- Game: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs
- Kickoff time: 8:20 p.m. ET
For months, as COVID-19 ravaged the plans and schedules of other sports leagues around the world, the NFL insisted it would be able to start its 2020 season on time. And the billionaire team owners who run this operation are not blinking even as football amid a pandemic reveals itself as impossible at the sport’s lower levels.
Thus, the 2020 NFL season is still scheduled to start Sept. 10 with what has become a traditional Thursday night opener.
After a year of deviation, the NFL is back to its tradition of scheduling the defending Super Bowl champion as the host of the league’s Thursday night season-opener. The Chiefs’ title defense begins against the Texans, one of the teams Kansas City beat in comeback fashion during last year’s AFC playoffs.
There had been rumors that the NFL was considering moving the season-opener to one of its new stadiums in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, especially after it began last season with a classic Packers-Bears matchup in Green Bay to kick off the league’s 100th season. Kansas City, though, remained the play.
The 2020 NFL season-opener will broadcast live Thursday, Sept. 10 on NBC featuring the network’s “Sunday Night Football” crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.
NFL 2020 schedule changes
The NFL was fortunate that the COVID-19 outbreak reached the United States during its offseason. The league was able to proceed with spring tent poles like free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, albeit virtually, because no on-field action was necessary.
So the only substantive schedule change the NFL has implemented as a result of the pandemic was the training camp schedule extension and, related to that, the cancellation of all 2020 preseason games.
The primary reason the players pushed for an extended training camp schedule was their desire to implement a longer acclimation period to get their bodies into football shape. With preseason games on the schedule, though, that extra training camp time would not have been possible.
So the two sides agreed to open training camps on the same date as originally planned (July 28) but with a schedule that featured more time for on-field workouts prior to the beginning of full-contact practices on Aug. 17.
The NFL thus far has made just one tweak to the 2020 regular-season schedule. In May, right before it released the complete schedule, the league announced that all games would be scheduled to play in the United States “under consistent protocols focused on the well-being of players, personnel and fans.” The moved relocated all London and Mexico City games on the schedule.
While the specific matchups and dates for the NFL’s 2020 international games had not been set, the Jaguars were slated to host two London games at Wembly Stadium. The Dolphins and Falcons were to host one London game each, presumably both at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Cardinals were to host a game in Mexico City.
NFL Week 1 schedule
Per tradition, Week 1 of the NFL season will begin with a Thursday night opener featuring the defending Super Bowl champs and will end with a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.
Nestled between those primetime games and serving as the night cap of the first full Sunday of NFL football in 2020 might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. Cowboys at Rams on “Sunday Night Football” is juicy enough on its own, but it doubles as the national TV debut of LA’s SoFi Stadium. (The whole limited-if-any-fans thing is a bit of a bummer.)
Below is the complete Week 1 schedule for the start of the 2020 NFL season.
Thursday, Sept. 10
|8:20 p.m. ET||Texans at Chiefs||NBC|
Sunday, Sept. 13
|1 p.m. ET||Eagles at Washington||Fox|
|1 p.m. ET||Dolphins at Patriots||CBS|
|1 p.m. ET||Packers at Vikings||Fox|
|1 p.m. ET||Colts at Jaguars||CBS|
|1 p.m. ET||Bears at Lions||Fox|
|1 p.m. ET||Raiders at Panthers||CBS|
|1 p.m. ET||Jets at Bills||CBS|
|1 p.m. ET||Browns at Ravens||CBS|
|1 p.m. ET||Seahawks at Falcons||Fox|
|4:05 p.m. ET||Chargers at Bengals||CBS|
|4:25 p.m. ET||Cardinals at 49ers||Fox|
|4:25 p.m. ET||Buccaneers at Saints||Fox|
|8:20 p.m. ET||Cowboys at Rams||NBC|
Monday, Sept. 14
|7:15 p.m. ET||Steelers at Giants||ESPN|
|10:10 p.m. ET||Titans at Broncos||ESPN|